Bhaktapur - Culture

Bhaktapur is filled with Hindu and Buddhist religious sites and art. Although the population is primarily Hindu, there are nineteen Buddhist monasteries (Vihars). At Indra Varna Madavihar, built in 1671 and located between Durbar Square and Dattatraya Square, visitors can see two lion statues, a Patinga Hiti (water spout), Tantric wood-carved windows, and prayer wheels.

There are also many Buddhist monuments and shrines, including Lokeswor Mahavihar, Prasannasheel Mahavihar, Chatu Brahma Mahavihar, Jaya Kirti Mahavihar, Sukra-varna Mahavihar, Dipanker Mahavihar.

Many festivals are celebrated throughout the year to mark the seasons, pay tribute to gods, and remember historical and legendary events. A few of these are:

* Dashain, the longest festival of the year, lasting 15 days. This festival honors the goddess Devi Durga, who is said to have slain the demon Durga, son of Ruru. Celebrants perform many pujas (offerings) during this festival, including thousands of animal sacrifices. (September/October)

* Gai-Jatra, the Cow Festival. This festival focuses on families in bereavement. Every family who lost a relative in the past year participates in a procession with a cow or a young boy dressed as a cow. The cow, it is believed, helps the deceased reach heaven. (July/August)

* Bisket Jatra, the Nepalese New Year celebration, in which chariots are pulled through the streets and ultimately a tug of war over them determines who will be blessed with good fortune in the coming year. This celebration is also observed with picnics and other private get-togethers. (April)

* Tihar, the festival of lights, honors Laxmi, the goddess of wealth. The Nepalese light up their homes with candles, oil lamps, and other lights to invite the goddess Laxmi in.

They also worship crows, dogs, and cows during this festival and set aside one day to honor brothers. The Mha puja, a day of revering one's own body and life, is celebrated on one day of this festival. (October)

* Handicrafts - Tourists can watch potters create works of art in the Pottery Squares. Indigenous (Newar) handicrafts include paubha scroll paintings, papier-mâché masks, cotton cloth, woodcarvings, metalwork, jewelry and ceramic products, haku-patasi (black sari), black caps and Juju-dhau.

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